Interesting Japanese - 暗黙のルール

Posted on February 27, 2014 | genkijacs

In relation to our previous post about the so-called "rules" of Valentine's Day/White Day, an interesting term came up when we did some research on the topic: "暗黙のルール" (あんもくのルール - "anmoku no ru-ru").

Many of you have probably heard of 暗黙の了解 (あんもくのりょうかい - "anmoku no ryoukai"), the unspoken/implicit agreements that allow fan-artists in the manga industry to create doujinshi and other fan works. This term applies to a lot of social interactions as well - for example, when you can't (or don't want to!) go to a party, you respond "ちょっと・・・" to the invitation, and it is implicitly understood that you're declining, even though you never directly said "no".

Along the same vein, 暗黙のルール are certain social "rules" that everyone somehow knows about, but no one actually ever teaches. These kind of "implicit rules" can be things that are considered so obvious there is no need to speak about them (like the fact that you're not supposed to blow your nose in public, or eat while walking on the sidewalk).

So with Valentine's Day/White Day, the "rules" are considered obvious, so no explanation is added along any of the candies/gifts on display at the shops.

Every culture and society has these kinds of rules, and they differ from country to country, but Japan does seem to have a lot of them! Can you think of any other interesting 暗黙のルール? Let us know via Twitter or Facebook!

Interesting Japanese - www

Posted on January 07, 2014 | genkijacs

If you exchange a lot of texts with Japanese people, you'll have noticed they tend to use "www" a lot in their conversations. "w" is Japanese language text-speak for "lol" (the "w" is short for 笑い - "warai" - to laugh), and "www" is called "草" (くさ - kusa) in Japanese . Generally, the more "w"'s there are, the funnier something is. One of the kanji used to write kusa is 艸 - which texters will often use in emoticons, since it looks like a pair of hands raised to cover someone's mouth as though laughing: (*´艸`*)

流行語 2013

Posted on December 27, 2013 | genkijacs

As 2013 winds to a close, we thought it would be fun to review some of the interesting phrases that were popular in Japan during the year. 流行語 (りゅうこうご - "ryuukougo": buzzword; popular phrase) are catchphrases and words made famous by TV ads, dramas and variety programs, which you will often see being used (or spoofed!) by other ads or shows.

Here are the top 5 ryuukougo for 2013:

5) アベノミクス
"Abenomics" is what the economic and monetary policies of Shinzo Abe, during his terms as prime minister of Japan, are being hailed as.

4) 倍返し (ばいがえし)
Made popular by the TBS drama "Hanzawa Naoki", this catch phrase has a similar meaning to the English phrase "you reap what you sow", but with more violence. In the show, Hanzawa vows to pay back the harm done by his enemies twice as badly.

3) じぇじぇじぇ
Made popular by the drama "Amachan", this term means "what?" in the Iwate dialect. It also serves as the base for a wordplay used in the name of the talent agency created by the lead character - "3j". Arguably also the only 流行語 that comes with its own emoticon... ( ‘ jjj ’ ) !!

2) お・も・て・な・し
This word has become the unofficial catchphrase of the Tokyo Olymics 2020. After being used in the presentation speech by Crystal Takigawa for the Olympics, it has since been popularised internationally to describe the unique hospitality of Japan and its people.

1) 今でしょ!(いまでしょ)
This term was first used by popular high school teacher Osamu Hayashi, who always used this phrase at the end of his lectures: "いつやるか?今でしょ!". The use of this phrase skyrocketed after it appeared in one of Toshin High School's popular TV commercials. Literally translated, it means "When are you going to do it? Now!", but on its own, 今でしょ has taken a meaning similar to "now's the right/only time [to do something]". You often hear it in commercials, in the context of "When are you going to buy this car?" "今でしょ!"


Interesting Japanese - 寝刻

Posted on December 17, 2013 | genkijacs

For those Japanese language students who just aren't morning people, and can never quite seem to make that 7AM wake-up to make it to morning classes on time, this is a word just for you. 寝刻 (ねこく - "nekoku") , combines the words 寝坊 (ねぼう - "nebou", to oversleep) and 遅刻 (ちこく - "chikoku", to be late), to make a new word meaning "to arrive late because you overslept".

Interesting Japanese - だてメガネ / だてマスク

Posted on December 03, 2013 | genkijacs

A trend most often associated with hipster fashion, we all know those guys and girls who walk around wearing glasses that don't have lenses. What the use is of wearing only the frames, we'll never know - we suppose it must be a fashion thing, but considering that there are many people suffering the pain of contact lenses just to get away from what glasses look like, it does seem a bit odd. To each their own, though!

Here in Japan, the trend of wearing glasses even though you don't really need them, or wearing glasses that don't have a particular use, is called だてメガネ.

There's a similar word for wearing a disposable mask (those white masks that cover the nose and mouth), when you're not really sick - だてマスク. This trend has recently gained popularity especially among the famous - musicians and actors who don't want to be recognised on the street will wear the masks and add sunglasses on top of that well, for double だて effect!


*image found on Google, (c) its original owner

Interesting Japanese - シャカ男

Posted on November 22, 2013 | genkijacs

シャカ男 ("shaka-o") is an interesting combination of the words "シャカシャカ" (onomatopoeia for the canned, muffled sound of synthesized drumbeats heard through earphones) and 男 (おとこ) - man.

Basically, シャカ男 is that guy sitting next to you on the train who has his music turned up so loud you can hear "dog goes woof, cat goes meow" right through his ear/headphones (even though you really don't want to). We all know the type - they have their tunes turned up so loud you can tell their taste in music just by being in their general area. How they go through life with their eardrums intact is a mystery - but to each their own, we guess!


Posted on November 05, 2013 | genkijacs

Here's some more interesting Japanese for you.

Say someone wrote you an email, and, being the dilligent Japanese language student you are, you've just been too busy practising your kanji to write back to them. When you finally emerge from under piles of practice sheets covered in 21-stroke mini-nightmares, you go to reply to the email, but you feel bad for taking so long to get back to the person. What do you say in this case?

返事が遅くなり、申し訳ございません (へんじがおそくねり、もうしわけございません) is perfectly acceptable, if very polite.

If it's someone you haven't talked to in a while, ご無沙汰しています (ごぶさたしています) is something you could possibly say.

But say it's a good friend you've known for a while, and you also happen to feel like showing off your knowledge of Japanese slang a bit. You could say...

亀レスごめん (かめれすごめん) / 亀レス失礼します (かめれすしつれいします)

亀レス is an interesting bit of Japanese slang that evolved in the last few years to mean "replying to someone's email after a long delay".

Broken down, 亀(かめ) is the Japanese word for turtle. Clearly something slow!

レス is the shortened form of レスポンス - response.

亀レス, therefore, is a response as slow as a turtle! We've all been there...

Stay turned for more interesting Japanese!


Posted on October 22, 2013 | genkijacs

You may have heard the word "こだわり" (kodawari) around, on the TV or radio, especially during those food shows Japanese TV lovers are so fond of. But what is こだわり? Its dictionary definition is somewhere along the lines of "fussing over, obsessing over", and that's not far from the mark.

こだわり is an uncompromising attention to detail. You'll notice this everywhere you go in Japan - from the meticulous way food is beautifully prepared and presented, to the carefully crafted art on simple things such as manhole covers. You can hardly bite into an pastry over here without feeling like you're desecrating a valuable artwork... They are almost invariably finely decorated with attention paid to the smallest details.


The spirit of こだわりalso extends to other aspects of Japanese culture. Japanese businessmen are painstakingly serious about their work - such things as careless mistakes are few and far between. This might have something to do with the impression a lot of people seem to have that products in Japan are simply made better than elsewhere. They say the devil is in the details, after all!

Interesting Japanese - Tsundoku

Posted on October 09, 2013 | genkijacs

Here's one for the readers among our Japanese language students. Trust Japanese to have a slang word for a concept every avid reader understands very very well! That word is 積読 (つんどく - tsundoku).

The word is a kind of amalgamated pun.

To break it down, it consists of:

積んでおく (つんでおく- to pile up; to put aside for later)
読む (よむ - to read)

読, in this case, is pronounced "doku" (as it is in 読書).

And the でおく in 積んでおく gets shortened to どく (読), and forms 積読 (つんどく).

But what does it mean?

It's the act of buying books with the intention of reading them, but eventually letting them pile up on shelves/nightstands/etc unread. I know I'm guilty of that!

There are also some other interesting words that have come into being using 積む...

積み本 (つみぼん - tsumibon) combines 積む and 本 (ほん - book) to make...
You guessed it...
The pile of books itself!

積む and ゲーム become 積みゲー...

Japanese can be a difficult language to learn, but sometimes you come across word play like this that just makes it so much fun!

*Images are from Google and copyright belongs to their respective owners.

Japanese Onomatopoeia and "Ideophones"

Posted on October 20, 2010 | genkijacs

To celebrate being shortlisted as one of the world's Star language schools for the fourth year in a row, Genki Japanese School is currently offering big discounts for study. Request an estimate today!

The Japanese have an absolute plethora of onomatopoeia and ideophones, many of which have very little to do with actual sounds. Our students here at Genki may come already knowing some from manga or other Japanese media, but I thought I would post about some less commonly known ones we discussed in our class last week.

If you are ever needing medicine or to go to the clinic here in Japan, there 3 could be useful
Hiri Hiri means a stinging sunburn kind of hurt
chiku chiku is a pricking pain, both empty and keen
zuki zuki is a throbbing pain pulsing pain.

For those who have ever heard of the pokemon Pikachu, which I imagine must be most of the world by now, this one may be enlightening, Pika Pika means to shine.

If you are a fan of storms, zaa zaa is a pouring drenching rain, while para para, as it sounds, is a much softer rain, a pitter patter if you will. Potsu potsu is a rain that falls intermittently, at times stopping. As far as thunder goes, goro goro means to roll, and is often used for a rolling thunder. (Or to mean you lazed about all day.) Don Don is, as it sounds when pronounced with a Japanese intonation, is a loud booming thunder. Gata Gata is the kind of loud thunderous noise that is reminiscent of earthquakes, a sound Japanese are familiar with.

Some other onomatopoeia you may hear commonly or already know are...
Jiro Jiro-to stare
Peco Peco- to be hungry
Pera Pera- to be adept or skilled at, most often applied to language and fluency.